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Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning are celebrating their first National Ice Hockey League win after a hard fought battle against new team, Leeds Chiefs, at Planet Ice on Saturday.  The 8-4 success was not sealed until the final five minutes following a fracas which ended with Chiefs’ netminder Sam Gospel being thrown out of the game on a match penalty for fighting Rio Grinell-Parke with his blocker.

Back-up goalie Miles Finney was thrown into the fray with no time for a warm-up or to psych himself for the task. And twice within a minute he found himself picking the puck out of the net as Lightning made the visitors pay.

The game was just 1min 27secs old when Ross Green was sin binned for cross checking. With MK’s Caly Robertson and Chiefs’ Chris Sykes following him into the respective sin bins for roughing at the three minute mark the Yorkshire outfit had the puck in the net – illegally – so the game remained scoreless.

Both Grinell-Parke and Tomas Kana had attempts on goal while Luke Boothroyd was serving time for slashing, giving Lightning a powerplay.  Leigh Jamieson eventually got the breakthrough on 13mins 12secs after a Harry Ferguson shot was blocked.

That was enough to give the home side a narrow lead at the first break – an advantage which was swiftly ended within the first 21 seconds of the middle session when Chiefs were able to capitalise on an 18th minute penalty on Jamieson for a late hit.  Lightning were caught cold by a long range blast from former MK man Radek Meidl who exposed a clear gap to the right of netminder Jordan Lawday.  Chiefs edged in front on the powerplay on 25mins 33secs when another ex-MK star, James Archer, set up Sam Zajac.

But back came Lightning to equalise with an unassisted Grinell-Parke goal who shot to the right of Gospel after 29mins 36secs and then retake the lead on 35mins 35secs after surviving a five on three penalty. Cale Tanaka finished off after the supply from Russ Cowley and Kana.

With a narrow 3-2 lead going into the third period it was Lightning’s turn to strike early – this time Cowley turned in Tanaka’s pass from the right within 49 secs of the restart. However Chiefs did not make things easy for the home outfit and Meidl shot through traffic to score unassisted on the powerplay at 42mins 36secs – while Ferguson was in the sin bin on a 12 minute for checking from behind.  Less than three minutes later the game was all square with Archer registering from close range after being supplied by Ethan Hehir on 45mins 16secs.

A five on three powerplay for Lightning – Boothroyd (holding) and Bobby Streetley (cross-checking) in the penalty box – prompted a timeout from MK coach Lewis Clifford. And it brought quick reward with Jamieson the supplier for Kana at 52mins 20secs.  Robertson added his name to the scoresheet just over a minute later at 53mins 48secs with a shot which went in off the skate of a Chiefs’ player.

Then came the clash between Grinell-Parke and Gospel which saw the Chiefs stopper ejected from the game. The young MK forward went crashing in on goal, landing in the net, with the former Nottingham Panther lashing out at him by illegal means.  Immediately a further incident broke out which ended with Zajac and Jamieson consigned to the penalty boxes for fighting.

It was the change of netminder though which had the major impact – Ari Närhi bagging the seventh goal at 58mins 19secs before Kana added the final marker 21 seconds later to make it 8-4.

Man of the match: Caly Robertson.

Photo: Tony Sargent